I had originally planned to write something on the giant boo-hoo story that my romantic life has become… but that was before I did some shadowing in general surgery.
Needless to say, I can’t think about a lot else right now, so that’s what you’re getting. I DETERMINE THE FATE OF THIS BLOG, PEONS.
I was signed up to spend some time in the OR (the operating room) right after class on Tuesday. Got lost a few times on the way there, but that’s what happens when you build a hospital organized in a bloody circle. Stupid.
When I finally found the desk to sign in, I discovered my preceptor was going to be a touch late since he was stuck in a complicated surgery. I decided I’d rather wait for him to come out than harass him while he’s working. So I waited.
For 2 hours.
No one’s fault, really. The doc was working and I don’t have a pager so I couldn’t wander away to have lunch. Trouble is, that put me in a bit of a nasty spot. To summarize:
- I was working on 5 hours of sleep.
- I hadn’t eaten anything except a granola bar since 7:00am.
- I was hella nervous.
- And I was about to walk into the OR for the first time.
You see my predicament.
Nevertheless, my preceptor eventually showed up, spoke with the patient, spoke with me, then off we went to see the wizard. (The Wonderful Wizard of Or, badum PSHHH.)
Scrubbing in was a mite more embarrassing than I’d anticipated. The resident was wonderful and helped walk me through how to wash up properly. But because everything was running 2 hours late, everyone was really rushed to prep the patient. And prep me. Putting on the gown was a bit of a disaster – they kept telling me to stand still, “DON’T MOVE,” in a very insistent, ominous way. Apparently there was a string out of place that I might’ve touched or something. Not that they said so. I guess they failed to take into account my overwhelming inexperience with the whole thing.
None of this helped the fact that my hands were trembling like crazy. Sugar low + little sleep + lots of stress = maximal nerves.
The surgeon had me stand right on the midline so I could watch everything up close after warning me with something to this effect: “If you feel woozy or faint, that’s totally fine, just find somewhere to sit down for a minute. BUT, if you’re going to keel over, make sure you fall backwards. DO NOT fall into my sterile field. Crack your head on the floor, but DO NOT contaminate my sterile field.” Ahhh, surgeons. So wonderfully blunt.
My heart was pumping a bit too hard as he made the first incision with a cauterizing blade. It was weird, seeing no blood, but lots of smoke. (First mistake – wearing contacts. The smoke’s a killer.) And the fat underneath was yellow. Like, properly yellow. Just like in the textbooks. And the muscle underneath was a ruddy brown. Just like it’s supposed to be. And the intestines underneath that, perfectly pink and squishy, with yellow, fatty tags all over. Just fantastic.
Surprisingly, I stayed firmly on my feet. No palpitations, no pre-syncope, no flushing… I nearly punched the air for joy. VICTORY!
The rest of the surgery went well. I was lucky enough to be able to get my hands in there – the surgeon was really nice about it and let me do the easy stuff that the clinical med student should have been doing. Snipping sutures, holding back intestines, that sort of thing. It was all a bit surreal, really. I actually had my hands inside someone else’s body. Somebody alive. Palpated his liver and the whole bit. (I had his liver in my hand…)
I suppose everybody says that the first time. Hell, some of you may actually be rolling your eyes right now. But that first time is a little strange and a lot exciting. I’m bummed that I don’t get another chance to get in the OR for my elective, but that only makes me more excited for next year’s surgery rotation.
As an aside, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get the smell out of my head. There’s nothing like burnt-people smell in the afternoon.
So tell me, dear readers – what’s your crazy, first-time-in-an-OR story (as a patient or otherwise)?